After starting the season at a perfect 4-0, holding opponents scoreless through more than 200 minutes of play and being ranked as high as first among Class 3A teams, the Henry County Wildcats ran into a road block on the football field Friday night. That road block was North Oldham, who improved to 5-0 with an 18-14 win and handed Henry its first defeat of the season.
The Wildcats are still ranked No. 2 in the latest Litkenhous Ratings released earlier this week, with Central at No. 1 and North Oldham jumping inside the top 10 for the first time at No. 5. Through their first four games this season, the Cats defeated Ludlow (40-0), Trimble County (56-0), Owen County (52-0) and Pendleton County (58-0), which pointed them in the right direction heading into the North Oldham showdown - a team Henry defeated twice last season.
The Mustangs, led by former HCHS coach Billy Martin, struck first when Paul Altoff kicked a 40-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in the first quarter. It was the first time Henry had allowed a point this season.
Midway through the second quarter, Luke Magness connected with Matt Long on a 10-yard play, which moved the Wildcats down to the 2-yard line. Magness then kept the ball on the touchdown carry and Patrick Mahoney kicked the extra point to put the Cats in front for the first time.
Play was delayed when the lights around the field went out with 3:59 left in the second quarter - North Oldham was in a third-and-18 situation at its own 41 with Henry in front 7-3. After a 30-minute delay, the lights were back on and play resumed.
Henry eventually forced the Mustangs to punt after the game got rolling again, which gave the Wildcats possession at their own 35. Magness connected with Cody Miracle on a 21-yard pass play, Magness continued to move the chains with a 27-yard run on the next play and North Oldham was whistled for pass interference against wide receiver Lance Timblerlake to move the ball to the 15-yard line on three consecutive first-down plays. Miracle then carried the ball four yards and Magness kept it for another eight-yard carry for another Henry touchdown with 1:44 left in the second quarter. Mahoney was again good on the extra point, which put the Cats ahead 14-3 heading into the break.
The Wildcats could not cross the elusive goal line during the final two quarters, while North Oldham managed to score twice for the 18-14 win. The Mustangs scored on a three-yard run with 8:14 left in the fourth quarter and was good on the two-point conversion, and added the go-ahead touchdown with just 42.9 seconds left on an 8-yard run, and kicked the extra point.
After starting their final drive at midfield, the Wildcats could not generate much progress as the clock continued to click down in North Oldham's favor. An incomplete pass was followed by a sack for a 9-yard loss and a Henry timeout with 26.8 seconds left. Magness then carried the ball 18 yards but went out of bounds just before the first-down marker to bring up a fourth-and-one situation with just 18 seconds left. Magness then connected with Long on a 3-yard pickup to move the chains, and a incomplete pass stopped the clock with 7.2 left. In a final desperate play, Magness tucked in the ball and ran upfield but couldnt reach the end zone as time expired, which gave Henry an unpredictable loss and a 0-1 start to District Four play.
North Oldham's 246 offensive yards (133 rushing and 113 passing) were the most Henry had given up this season. Meanwhile, the Wildcats had 77 yards rushing and 143 yards passing during their homecoming contest, which was also both team's district openers and drew a camera crew from Wave 3 and a chopper from 32 News.
Magness finished the game with 13-of-26 passing for 143 yards, with Long catching six passes for 67 yards, Miracle catching three passes for 42 yards, Hayden Yancey catching three passes for 28 yards and Jimmy Sampson catching one pass for six yards. Also, Magness kept the ball 16 times for 71 yards on the ground. North Oldham fumbled the ball four times, but lost just one - recovered by Zach Rahm.
After the 4-1 start, the Wildcats will be back at home this week when they host Eminence in a county showdown. The Cats will then play Western Hills, Carroll County, Spencer County and Scott before the postseason starts. Western Hills and Spencer are both District Four opponents, which will determine postseason seeding. If the Cats can win both of those games, they will be guaranteed home field advantage in the opening round of the state playoffs.
Through five games, Magness is 56-of-110 passing for 864 yards, 12 touchdowns and just one interception for an average of 172.8 yards per game. His top receivers have been Long with 17 catches for 409 yards and seven touchdowns, Cody Hinkel with 11 catches for 163 yards and one touchdown and Yancey with 11 catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns. Miracle has been the teams leading rusher with 50 carries for 286 yards and four touchdowns, while Magness has kept the ball 53 times for 244 yards and five touchdowns and Timblerlake has rushed 15 times for 135 yards and two touchdowns.
Heading into the Eminence rivalry game, Henry has averaged 43.6 points per game while the Warriors have averaged 35.6. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m. on Henry's field.
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